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Happenstance Found (The Books of Umber) Hardcover – January 27, 2009


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Happenstance Found (The Books of Umber) + The End of Time (The Books of Umber) + Dragon Games (The Books of Umber)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 700L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Books of Umber (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; 1ST edition (January 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416975195
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416975199
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Catanese (the Further Tales Adventures) dazzles in the first of the planned Books of Umber series by wittily subverting genre tropes. Happenstance, a boy with strange green eyes, wakes up in a cave with no memories of who he is or anything about the fantastic world in which he lives. He soon encounters Lord Umber, an adventurer who seems familiar with our world as well as his own, and his two companions—a brute cursed to be forever truthful and a one-handed artist and archer. En route to Umber's home, they discover that Hap can see in the dark, leap many feet in the air, speak numerous languages and go without sleep. As the group attempts to learn about his origins, they're forced to confront a supernatural assassin and secrets from Umber's own mysterious past. Catanese packs a lot into the book: rich characterizations (Umber, who turns out to be from another dimension, suffers from depression and wishes he had his meds), well-choreographed action sequences and genuinely surprising twists at the end. As auspicious start to the series. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—Happenstance Found, 12, does not remember who he is, where he came from, or any details of his former life. He wakes up in an underground cavern, accompanied by a mysterious stranger who refuses to tell him anything about his origins. The stranger hands Hap over to personable, yet in many ways equally mysterious, Lord Umber. Acting on the stranger's advice, Umber invites Hap to join his company. They immediately meet with adventure and danger, and Hap learns that Umber is a man of diverse talents and boundless curiosity. Umber discovers that Hap can see in total darkness, jump to extraordinary heights, and sense when momentous events are about to occur. Hap is also being pursued by a menacing figure, which he and his companions dub "the Creep." In the final conflict with this character, Hap's ingenuity, abilities, and loyalty are tested. He triumphs over his adversary, but enough tantalizing loose ends are left to be resolved in the sequel. Though some may lament the uneven characterization, there's plenty of adventure and mystery to appeal to fans of Catanese's earlier works.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Hello and welcome. If you aren't familiar with my novels, here's the general idea: I take a classic fairy tale and tell you what happens many years later, using the loose threads of the original story to weave a new adventure (a fast-paced, action-packed, sometimes scary adventure, to be more specific). Sometimes the characters from the original tales show up in supporting roles. In "The Thief and the Beanstalk," for example, you'll meet Jack, but he's an old man. The hero is a young thief named Nick who crosses Jack's path. This is a fun premise for stories, because the themes of the old stories echo in the new adventures, and I can look at the classic tale in a new and sometimes unexpected way.

As for me, I was born in New York, lived near Boston for a few years, then moved to Connecticut when I was seven. I live in a small town in the same state today, with my wife and three children. These days, when I'm not writing books, I work for an advertising agency.

Here's a funny little coincidence: The letters in "P.W. Catanese" can be rearranged to spell "Want escape?" And that's why people read books like these, isn't it?

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I read this book yesterday.
E. Peck
The characterizations are fun and a little shallow at first but with time and pages comes very satisfying character development.
Charles S. Holzheimer
I would recommend it to anyone who would like a good book and to enjoy an intriguing storyline.
By Nathan Grimsey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By sq228mq5 on February 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Picked this up at the library along with a batch of other children's books for my boys ages 10 and 12. I typically skim through these books to anticipate/find out what my kids might like and what they don't like. This book hooked me and I ended up reading it cover to cover. It has the quality prose, vivid descriptions and sophisticated plot development characteristic of a book aimed at adults. I recently read The First Law series - much more violent and adult-oriented - and was not at all bored by the first Book of Umber. My kids enjoyed it greatly and are now clamoring for the next installment.

Like a previous reviewer, I was surprised that this author is not better known. I expected this book to have the benefit of a lot more reviews than it does.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Squid on February 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Happenstance Found is Book One in what I hope to be a great series.

Before I go on, I want to say that P. W. Cantanese is my favorite author of stores of fantasy and magical tales. I think that "A Mirror's Tale" is brilliant, and that "The Eye of the Warlock", and "The Riddle of the Gnome" are exciting and well crafted. I read all 5 of his books to my children (middle school aged - they loved each of these books too, but I have to admit that I always got caught reading ahead, having a hard time putting these books down. I don't understand why Cantanese is not a best selling author. His five "Further Tales" should be on every middle school's reading list. If I made movies - I would start here.

Now to the review, There are two main characters in the story. Happenstance, a boy who looks to be about 12, wakes in an underground ruins with no memory of any past, and a man named Umber who is brilliant, but seems to be manic - depressive; filled with exuberance most of the time, or smitten with a deep gloom.

The story starts well and then slows for much of the first half of this book. Even though there is vivid imagery, and strong characters, somehow the beginning of the story didn't hook me. The book seems to find a rhythm only about half way through. Sometimes authors spend the first part of a story doing the set-up, introducing characters and setting the stage so that when things get going - we are ready with a sufficient background for things to make sense. For example, Umber has a business partner that he almost cowers from as she is so demanding - but she is in only one scene of the story, and then does not reappear. Other characters are developed (i.e., the princes) - but then they seem to vanish from the plot.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Tichenor on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I gotta tell you all how much I enjoyed this book. One of my favorite tween/teen reads of 2009 by far. Catanese creates a fascinating world for his characters to explore. The central characters are all well crafted and they are, best of all, funny and real. I also loved the implied connection between our world and the world of the story. It is safe to say that this should develop into an extraordinary series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Peck on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this book yesterday. I started and just didn't want to stop.
This is for a number of reasons.

I guess one is the pace. Catanese hits the ground running and never
really lets up. I can't think of any point in the book where I
thought, "Well, here is a good place to stop and I'll come back
later." The story is compelling and the way it unfolds keeps the
reader pulled in tight. I just kept turning pages, eager to find out
what was next.

The tale that is woven includes a large number of unknowns, or
mysteries if you will. Here again I am incredibly appreciative of the
skill the author brings into play. Some stories can be infuriating as
they constantly remind the reader that there are things they don't
know, yet never give up anything. Catanese creates intriguing unknowns
but also constantly feeds new information that lets the reader
actively participate in the unfolding of the story. I had a great time
figuring out what was going on and working through the clues. At the
same time, Catanese doesn't just spill it all out and there are some
very fun surprises.

The characters have a significant level of depth. They interact in an
honest fashion that has a strong sense of reality to it. All of this
takes place though in an utterly fantastic setting of magic and
wonderful steam punk inspired technology. (I wouldn't call this a
steam punk story but there are little flashes of it that I loved.)
This is fully fantasy but grounded in very real issues of humanity.

I hate to try and figure out an appropriate age for a child to read a
book. Every person is so very different. My ten year old is reading
"Happenstance Found" right now and loves it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tobeornotobe on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We listened to the book on tape during a long 10 hour drive. The kids couldn't wait to get back in the car. Well read and very well done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Holzheimer VINE VOICE on June 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I initially picked up this book because I received book two, "Dragon Games" to review as part of the Vine Program at Amazon. I wanted to make sure I gave book two a fair shake so I went back and read book one.

Happenstance, or Hap to his soon to be friends, wakes up in a dungeon with no memory at all of his previous life. He doesn't even know what kind of being he is. In a world of sentient and semi-sentient creatures this is a huge concern for this young man. He is almost immediately rescued by Lord Umber and his band of adventurers.

The revelations come fast and furious as Hap tries to figure out not only anbout himself but also things about the people he is tossed in with as well as the world in which he now lives.

The characterizations are fun and a little shallow at first but with time and pages comes very satisfying character development. The writing by Catanese is light and easy to read. I would recommend this book for anyone from about 10 up. If you have ever read the Belgariad by David Eddings, you will find a similar light tone here in this book and at least the book that follows.

I highly encourage reading this book to anyone who likes fantasy.
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